This year, I was lucky enough to be the Texas Wine Lover writer to go out on the Roll Out the Barrel with Big Thirst Marketing. Again, Matt McGinnis arranged for a trip to three Texas Hill Country wineries to sample upcoming wines. This year, we visited the new Burnet location of Wedding Oak Winery, Fall Creek Vineyards in Tow, and Spicewood Vineyards.
The Roll Out the Barrel event is an annual event—this year celebrating five years—where several Texas wineries showcase their future wines to the media, so that we can share that information with our audience. The event resembles En Primeur in France, where visitors preview wines to purchase futures. On our trip, we tasted wines recently released, wine scheduled for release, and wines still in the barrel.
It was a dreary, wet March Monday when we set out from Austin into the Texas Hill Country. The trip west led us out to Burnet for our first visit at Wedding Oak Winery. Gina Cannary visited there after their opened last year; you can see her post here.
Mike McHenry, one of Wedding Oak’s managing partners, met us as we drove up to the sleepy Burnet town square. He gave us a quick tour of the main tasting room and wine club member’s lounge on the first floor. As we toured the building, we learned about the history and saw some interesting artifacts. I recommend checking out the skull and cross bones on the wall near the stairs.
Before sitting down to taste, we checked out the upstairs. Despite the drizzle, we were still able to head out onto the covered patio to look out over Burnet. Then, we settled into the private room upstairs where Mike and winemaker Seth Urbanek treated us to a tasting of seven wines:
- 2019 Roussanne from High Plains grapes has been aged in barrel—mainly neutral oak but some new oak. It was currently in tank getting ready to be bottled.
- 2019 Rosado made from 51% Garnacha, 44% Tempranillo, and 5% Carignan from the Hill Country. It had recently been bottled and released. The grapes were grown knowing they would be made into a rosé.
- Vertical of 2018 and 2019 Montepulciano from Diamante Doble Vineyard in the High Plains showed the stark differences between a wine nearing bottling and one just beginning to age.
- Vertical of 2018 and 2019 Primitivo from the Cerro Santo Vineyard in the High Plains.
- 2019 100% Tannat from Hye Top Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country.
With our first tasting in the books, we headed to Tow to visit Fall Creek Vineyards. We got a view of a very full Lake Buchanan as we rounded the lake to head up to Tow. Ed Auler greeted us in the tasting room before taking us out into the vineyard.
They had set up a tent for us to shield under as Ed and vineyard manager Quincy Barton told us about the management of their vineyards. We learned a lot about their training and pruning methods, crafted over decades to experience, to best meet the demands of growing grapes in Texas. Ed told us about the various vineyards they own, including the Salt Lick Vineyards in Dripping Springs, as well as long-time partners Alphonse Dotson and Maria Cervantes of Certenberg Vineyards in Mason. Susan Auler met us there before taking us into the barrel room for a tasting. Also present was Michelle McBride, Cellar Master.
Once in the barrel room, we met up with winemaker Sergio Cuadra. Originally, the planned tasting consisted of 10 wines, but Susan Auler wanted to add one more at the last minute. Who were we to refuse? We tasted a few recently released wines, as well as several about to be bottled. However, they planned a special blind tasting of three wines for us.
The special part of the visit included the three blind tastings. All wines were from the 2019 vintage and were all reds. These three caught most of us off guard:
- Our first wine was a Texas grown Pinot Noir that several members of our group guessed was Pinot Noir
- We also had a Texas grown Carignan
- We ended with a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Oxbow Vineyard
The tasting also included three whites, a rosé, and four additional reds:
- The Vintner’s Selection 2019 Sauvignon Blanc came from Escondido Valley. This was one of the first grapes the winery every planted (about 37 years ago).
- The Vintner’s Selection 2019 Chardonnay came from Texas Hill Country fruit
- 2019 Terroir Reflections Chardonnay came from the Dotson and Cervantes’ Certenberg Vineyards
- We tasted the recently released Chez Rosé made primarily from Merlot with a bit of Tempranillo and Cabernet. Susan wanted to give it a special name and was surprised to find this one available.
- We started the reds with the 2017 Terroir Reflections GSM from Salt Lick Vineyards
- The 2018 Terroir Reflections Tempranillo from Salt Lick Vineyards was one of the barrel samples we tasted; it was soon to be bottled
- The 2018 Tempranillo ExTerra was one of the most recently released wines from the ExTerra wines. I had the pleasure of trying a few several months back during a trip to the Driftwood locations and was taken away by the wines.
- We ended with one of Fall Creek’s flagship wines, Meritus. The 2018 Bordeaux blend mainly came from Certenberg Vineyards, but this year, some of the Cabernet came from the Oxbow Vineyard was well.
As we headed back to Austin, we stopped at Spicewood Vineyards where owner Ron Yates met us for an informal tasting in the tasting room. We were scheduled to taste seven wines. When we got there, Ron had a few extra wines for us. We stayed late to taste the ten wines Ron provided for us: eight from Spicewood Vineyards and two from Ron Yates Wine.
- We started with award winning 2018 Estate Sauvignon Blanc
- We followed that with the 2018 Viognier sourced from the High Plains. This wine, aged for nine months in neutral oak, recently won Gold at the 2020 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
- We moved on to one rosé: the 2019 Grenache Rosé from Farmhouse Vineyards in the High Plains
- Our first red was the 2016 Estate Tempranillo that was barrel aged for 18+ months (45% in new French oak)
- We moved on to the 2017 Tempranillo from the Texas High Plains. This wine took Best of Class in the 2020 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
- The 2016 Syrah from Escondido Valley was aged for 16 months in 30% new and 70% neutral American oak. Choosing the right barrels for the right wines is an important part of Todd Crowell’s winemaking for Spicewood Vineyards and Ron Yates wines. You can learn more about it from my visit last year for their special barrel event.
- We tasted the soon to be released 2016 Good Guy. This flagship wine, named for Ron’s grandfather, is made from 42% Tempranillo, 17% Graciano, 17% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Syrah from the Hill Country estate.
- The big treat was the surprise 2012 Estate Tempranillo. We were fortunate enough to try this wine—there were only a handful of bottles left. This is the wine they won with at the competition in Lyon France in 2015.
- We moved on to the Amalgamation, a recently released blend from Ron Yates on 290.
- We ended with the 2016 Friesen Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from Ron Yates that also won gold at the 2019 San Francisco International Wine Competition